Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Hillarization Of Female Politicians: Fun For The Whole Pundit Family

"Yell loud enough at a female leader and eventually she’ll go away. Convince her that her disappearance is necessary for the party, and soon everyone will get to return to the avuncular comfort of a dude like Joe Biden."  Monica Hesse wrote that in a late November Washington Post article about the attempts to oust Nancy Pelosi as the incoming House Majority Leader.

It's not the amount of yelling that the powerful female politicians get that is the problem, in my opinion; it's the type of yelling they tend to receive.  Anything is grist for the attack mills, and not just the policies that the politician favors or has accomplished or has failed to accomplish.

It's everything else, too, from what type of a person the woman's husband might be via how her voice sounds to others to how she dresses, and even how frequently she gets told that she should exit politics or not run* for the sake of the common good. 

The tilt in political coverage I address here is more quantitative than qualitative (though it's the latter, too):  Some male politicians may also get criticized for, say, their clothes, but not as often and not for the same reasons.  The men are criticized for the political tactics they used and how those backfired, as well as for the policies they pursued.**

On top of that criticism female politicians also elicit a different type of scrutiny, one which tries to find the hidden worm in the superficially perfect-looking apple, which tries to find something that is very very wrong in her basic values or her basic competence.

The worm MUST be there, for why otherwise would we find her so unauthentic, her voice so grating, her ambition so calculating?

And once the worm has been found, it is turned into a boa constrictor and then that boa constrictor is turned against the politician herself.

Add to that my impression that for female politicians the rules about making mistakes, in general, are different.  One strike and you are out.  There are no excuses for, say, youthful failings, no real recovery from one error of judgement or one misstep.

I call all this by the awkward term "Hillarization," for fairly obvious reasons (the decades-long campaign against Hillary Clinton).  The US right is particularly good at committing Hillarization on female Democrats it dislikes, but the phenomenon is not completely tied to one party.

*   That Boston Globe article is not the only negative Warren piece that has been published in the last few days.  All the others are about Warren's DNA debacle.

Unless something is going on behind the curtains of power that I am unaware of,
so many different journalists choosing to write about Warren almost simultaneously is odd, given that the DNA test stuff happened well over a month ago and was thoroughly discussed then.

There's also something odd about the argument that because of the DNA debacle, Warren should now utterly forget about running for the presidency in 2020.  She had her one chance and spoiled it!

Compare this to, say, Ted Kennedy's career after the Chappaquiddick incident which cost Mary Jo Kopechne her life.

I am not defending what Warren did, and neither am I demanding that nobody criticize her.   But I strongly suspect that her ethical and moral failings and/or her lack of judgement would be covered less fiercely and less frequently if her name was not Elizabeth but, say,  Elliot.

**  And, of course, for actual crimes and such, though the 2016 presidential campaign taught all of us that "journalistic balance" can mean redefining crimes differently for male and female politicians.  It didn't really matter what scandals were revealed from Donald Trump's past; certain august newspapers would publish them and then publish yet another rehash of Hillary Clinton's emails.  Just to show that they are measured, objective and balanced.